Once again proving that good things come in small packages, the creator of the hottest production version of Fiat's cheeky Cinquecento lineup has remade its Abarth 500 into an even more exclusive offering that cranks up both its visual appeal and, more importantly, its performance punch. Dubbed the Abarth 695 "Tributo Ferrari" it's intended to emphasize the de facto continuing linkage between two of the great names in Italian motorsport history. The Tributo is an outgrowth of a recent co-operative program that saw Abarth prepare a mini-fleet of its top-of-the-line 500s to be used as courtesy cars by various European Ferrari dealers. While also conceived as a limited-production model, the Tributo Ferrari goes well beyond the largely cosmetic tweaking done to those previous cars. It brings serious functional changes that will allow Abarth to move further upmarket on its own while providing Ferrari owners with a car that many may well find a lot more practical on a daily-use basis, especially in its Italian home market.
Visually, the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari definitely looks the part. Painted Scuderia Red with carbon fiber door mirrors, Racing Grey accent stripes and rear air intakes, bespoke body bits, special "Ferrari-look" 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in performance tires, and dual-paired chrome exhaust tips, it also boasts super-bright Magneti Marelli bi-xenon headlamps. Inside, unique trim bits further that competition flavor, highlighted by Abarth Corsa by Sabelt sport seats that wrap their deep bolsters in black leather and have carbon-fiber frames and bases that help trim over 22 pounds from the weight of the standard buckets.
Mechanically, the Tributo Ferrari earns its doctorate in pocket rocketry by replacing the Abarth 500's standard 135-horsepower/1.4-liter turbocharged engine with a 180-horse equivalent. Backing that is an electromechanically activated gearbox with F1-style paddle shifters that allow ace "pilotos" to take full advantage of every extra pony. The suspension and brakes of this hard-charging front-driver have received similarly intensive care courtesy of stiffer shock absorbers and upsized Brembo disc brakes. Rounding out the mix is a "Record Monza" variable back-pressure dual-mode exhaust system that brings out the sonic best in the hotter engine any time -- which is virtually all of the time -- you get it winding beyond 3,000 rpm. No word yet on whether we'll ever see an Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari in U.S. spec, but given that some form of high-content Fiat 500 is due to arrive here around 2012, we can always hope.